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  You are in: Home > Jewish Studies > Jews and the Olympic Games  

Jews and the Olympic Games
The Clash between Sport and Politics
With a complete list of Jewish Olympic medallists

Paul Taylor

Author text to follow


This unique book documents the history of Jewish Olympic athletes, many of whom suffered under Nazi persecution and the Holocaust, illustrating how they used sport as a mechanism for combating oppression, social prejudice and inequality.

There is an unusually rich collection of stories making up the history of the Jews at the Olympic Games. This is partly due to the prodigious – and widely underestimated – success of Jewish athletes at the Games, but also owing to the special history of the Jewish people in the twentieth century – first, as victims of racism in Europe and then, following the establishment of modern Israel in 1948, in the ongoing struggle for peace in the Middle East. Many of the athletes depicted here fought battles both on and off the running track. The personal drama and enduring humanity of their stories goes beyond sport and embraces politics, heroism and resilience. The Olympic Games served to combat persecution: in sport, the best competitor always wins. On these equal terms, such political and racial interference is rendered impotent. No story so richly illustrates the interaction between sport and politics as the story of Jewish athletes and the Games.

From the first Olympics in Athens in 1896, through to the disasters and triumphs of Munich 1972 and beyond, Jews and the Olympic Games, which features a list of the more than 250 Jewish medallists at the Games, is a powerful account of the conflict between sport and politics.


Introduction: Jews, History and the Olympic Games

1 Duelling for Gold: The Great Jewish-Hungarian Fencers
2 Liars, Victims and Heroes: The Road to the Nazi Games
3 Competing Against Hitler: The “Non-Aryans” Fight Back
4 Warriors in the Water: Jewish Olympic Swimmers
5 Murder in Munich, 1972: The Attack, the Battle and the Aftermath
6 From Europe to the New World: Jewish Olympic Stars of the Post-War Era

Postscript: Pride, Prejudice and a Place for Heroes

Appendix: A Complete Review of Jewish Olympic Medallists

Bibliography and Further Reading

“Makes good use of the published sources and brings them to bear on the Jewish angle.” Choice

“A comprehensive history of Jewish Olympians. Taylor’s book focuses on the political background and conflict; it contains hundreds of stories, lists of Jewish medallists and photographs. It merits a medal.” Sir Martin Gilbert, The Weekly Review, The Jewish Chronicle

“Taylor has produced a unique and compelling history of Jewish sporting achievement. He reveals how Jewish athletes have had to combat not only their Olympic competitors, but also an enduring, often lethal, anti-Semitism.” Colin Tatz, sports historian and author of Obstacle Race: Aborigines in Sport

“Engrossing, innovative and original. Paul Taylor provides a fascinating glimpse into a neglected aspect of the modern Jewish experience; a window into a tumultuous and traumatic century. Through memoir, biography and careful reconstruction, he weaves a moving and dramatic tale, tracing the worlds and lives of Jewish Olympiads. Filled with bravery and pathos, Jewish fencers, athletes and swimmers straddle the stage. Inevitably Hitler’s games and the Munich tragedy loom large. But Nordau’s ‘muscular Judaism’ is at last realized.” Milton Shain, Professor of Modern Jewish History, University of Cape Town


Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
272 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
July 2004
  Illustrated:   With pictures of Jewish athletes
Hardback Price:
£45.00 / $65.00
Paperback Price:
£15.95 / $27.95

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